Making smart decisions about vaccinating your child.Living in the technology era has certainly made getting information easier. Computers, tablets and laptops run at lightning speed. Your smart phone has instant access to research, policies, pictures, news, weather, maps, blogs, Skype, e-mail, movies, appointments — and let’s not forget social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.
The fact that we have such super access to information doesn’t guarantee its accuracy or reliability, however. Anyone can post anything on the Internet, so it’s difficult to sort out the trustworthy sources from the useless ones.
Vaccination has been a controversial subject with tons of conflicting information. With loads of both reliable and unreliable material out there, how can parents know which sources can be trusted to provide accurate, reliable facts about childhood vaccines? Inaccurate information — even when it may look as though it comes from a reputable site — can be misleading and may misrepresent scientific data. Unfortunately, when parents make vaccination decisions based on faulty science, partial truths or others’ personal opinions, they may unwittingly make decisions that compromise the health and safety of their child.
The Good News
Be assured that the Internet is full of reliable sources, as long as you know where to look.
It’s a good idea to conduct a bit of research on any organization making claims on its Web site. Reputable organizations usually have a means by which you can contact them and ask for additional information about what they’ve published online. As a general rule, trustworthy sources provide references to scientific research articles right on their Web site, confirming their claims. Even when the articles are not directly cited on the Web page, the information should be available if you contact the site directly.
Many reputable organizations feature immunization information on their Web sites, including: specific vaccines and the diseases they prevent, scientific articles about the safety of vaccines, when to vaccinate your child (vaccination schedules), expert answers to questions parents ask frequently, personal stories and much more. Organizations well-known for their accurate, easy-to-understand vaccination Web sites include:
American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP)
The Importance of Keeping Vaccination Records
The decision to vaccinate is one of the most valuable things you can do for your kids. While your healthcare provider can be a partner in keeping your child’s health and vaccination records up-to-date, it is your responsibility to keep a personal record of your child’s vaccinations. Remember that clinics close, transfer to a new location or merge with another company. In such circumstances, the vaccination record can be lost, or at least temporarily unavailable. Even more often, however, families relocate to another city or state, where the child’s vaccination record is not as convenient to access.
To make it easier for you to locate your personal record when you need it, keep it with other important documents — such as your child’s birth certificate and Social Security card.
Need help getting started? Call your child’s health care provider and ask if the office can mail, e-mail or fax a copy of the vaccination record to you. If your child has seen a variety of healthcare providers in many locations, you may want to start by looking through a few key locations around your home to find the vaccination record. Schools are another excellent source to obtain a copy of your child’s vaccination records. If you have more than one vaccination record, combine them. It’s difficult enough to keep track of one vaccination record.
Bring your vaccination record with you to all of your child’s health care appointments to avoid unnecessary repetition. Even better, keep a digital record of your child’s vaccinations on your smart phone or computer.
Your child is vaccinated according to his age and how long it has been since his last vaccine in the series. While online resources can assist you in determining which vaccines should be given at what intervals, navigating the schedule can still be challenging. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you’re not alone.
To make the process easier for parents, regularly scheduled well-baby and well-child appointments are aligned with the vaccination schedule. That means that if you make sure your child receives consistent, regularly scheduled checkups, he will get all of his vaccinations on time. To facilitate this process, try to keep your child’s health care services in one location. That way he can receive consistent care, not only for vaccinations, but also for his proper development, nutrition and growth.
Karlen Luthy, DNP, FNP, a primary-care nurse practitioner, is an Assistant Professor at Brigham Young University in Provo, UT.
Jennifer Orton is a student in the College of Nursing at Brigham Young University in Provo, UT.